adventure

We are leaving to take Grace to college on Friday morning.  Jacob will be coming home this weekend while we are gone, to pick up Ethan and take him back to college with him. So we are savoring the last week at home before a very busy weekend.

I’m sitting cross legged on the couch, still in my pajamas.  The kids are playing a game and Parker the dog is stretched out next to me, snoring.  Gentleman Gray is grooming himself on the end table.

We had rain in the night.  The outdoors is fresh and clean and the sun is shining bright.  I ate a piece of pie out on the porch and watched the morning birds fly about.  I saw a hummingbird chase around a titmouse and a bee sipping nectar from a flower in my garden.

DSC_0269 3

I recently made a pound cake and it turned out so good I thought I would share the recipe.  Click HERE for a yummy Vanilla Bean-Brownie Ripple Pound Cake from Southern Living.  And it used up five eggs so it was a winner in every way.  (I’m always looking for recipes that use up the eggs from our flock of 14 hens).

DSC_0279 2

I quartered some baby potatoes and fried them with an onion and some peppers.  When they were done, I made a spot for four eggs and cooked them with the lid on until they were just soft in the middle but not gooey in any way (I hate runny eggs).  It was a delicious breakfast and so easy.

DSC_0277 2

I was gazing at the monarch caterpillars when I saw Gentleman Gray trot by the window with a frog in his mouth, legs every which way.

Cats are funny.

DSC_0281 1

Ethan spent over an hour yesterday morning learning a new song on the guitar.

It was like he couldn’t stop, he was so focused.

DSC_0282 1

Why yes, she WAS singing “Do you Want to Build a Snowman?”

DSC_0287

Caleb got his summer reading assignment done.

DSC_0294 2

DSC_0297

Grace and Tessa worked on a puzzle.

DSC_0298 2

Watching a movie with the kids (Lego Batman).

DSC_0301 1

The two swallowtail caterpillars finally stopped eating and began the chrysalis stage.  Instead of dangling like the monarchs do, they hang themselves under a stick using a loop of silk.

DSC_0302

And then, like magic, they turn into something that looks just like a stick.

IMG_6326

I recently got this at Goodwill.  “Five little maidens out on the green, Happier maidens never were seen.”

IMG_6333

legs

IMG_6334

I have about 10,000 peaches to take care of thanks to our one and only tree being LOADED this year!  (I made a pie yesterday).

YFUH3359

Grace and I finally got her college preparations done yesterday.  AND manicures and pedicures.

IMG_6341

*****

“The less we are attached to life, the more alive we can become.  The less we have preferences about life, the more deeply we can experience and participate in life.  This is not to say that I don’t prefer raisin toast to blueberry muffins.  It is to say that I don’t prefer raisin toast so much that I am unwilling to get out of bed unless I can have raisin toast, or that the absence of raisin toast ruins the whole day.  Embracing life may be more about tasting than it is about either raisin toast or blueberry muffins.  More about trusting one’s ability to take joy in the newness of the day and what it may bring.  More about adventure than having your own way.”

~Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. in Kitchen Table Wisdom

 

I found a caddis worm

Yesterday afternoon I went to the chicken coop.  It was the first day back to school for the children so I was alone and greatly enjoying the quiet.  There were three eggs in the coop which I promptly put into the pocket of my shorts.  I held in my hand a mug of lukewarm coffee.  A rose fiestaware mug, to be exact.

Seth and Caleb were playing catch by the road last Friday.  Across the road from our house is forest and when they heard a cracking sound, they looked up just in time to see a small bear jumping down from a tree and running away into the woods.

I had this in mind as I stood and gazed around me at the edge of our property.  Would I see the bear?  Was I nervous?

Our property sits on four acres and it borders state forest.  A shallow but constantly running stream also borders part of our land.  I walked away from the coop into the forest and toward the stream.  I was wearing shorts and sneakers, the air was warm with a cool breeze and sunlight streamed through the tops of tall pine trees.  Beneath my feet were old damp leaves and pine needles, and crackling twigs.

17972157_10154996929071343_1767869824873076305_o

A frog hesitated and then took a flying leap into the water and swam under water soaked leaves to hide.  I had surprised me so I stood still for a while just in case there were any others.  In the center of the water beyond reach was a gelatinous mass of eggs.  The stream had overflowed its boundaries with the rain, forming a nice big puddle of fresh water, just right for a frog nursery.  As I looked, I saw a tiny little wooden thing slowly crawling in hesitant dips and bobs on the bottom of the puddle.  It looked like a small pine cone … walking under the water.  But that couldn’t be right, could it?

I was wearing my perfectly good black sneakers and for a brief moment I had to decide; would I or would I not get them wet?  For a pine cone?

I would.

17972230_10154996929501343_4820161259206404718_o

I dumped my coffee out and dipped the mug into the water to rinse.  The water was cold and my sneakers were instantly filled with it.  I bent down to scoop my discovery into the mug and brought it back with me, just a step or two, to dry land.

18010607_10154996924086343_8256573613528379492_n

It was a tiny creature living inside it’s own homemade case of twigs.

I kept it in the mug as I took a few pictures and a video.

17990190_10154996926996343_8012122888558391940_o

It’s “front door” –one the end of the case– was finished off with whitish twigs.

17917310_10154996927756343_8774314130021339540_o

Right before I put it back I held it in my hand.  It was less than an inch long.

I proceeded on my walk and as I walked down the trail to the road I almost stepped on a snake.

It moved away from my foot fast enough but then had a hard time slithering away because it was so cold.

*******

Back in the house, I quickly located my favorite nature book and identified the strange water creature that I had found.

17972295_10154996998906343_1212963284706095926_o

“People who have never tried to fathom the mysteries of the bottom of brook or pond are to be pitied.  Just to lie flat, face downward, and watch for a time all that happens down there in that water world is far more interesting than witnessing any play ever given at matinee.  At first one sees nothing, since all the swift-moving creatures have whisked out of sight, because they have learned to be shy of moving shadows………….and then something strange happens.  A bit of rubbish on the bottom of the brook walks off.  Perhaps it is a dream, or we are under the enchantment of the water witches!”  ~Anna Comstock

Pity me, because I have to say I have never (until yesterday) tried to fathom the mysteries of the bottom of our stream….and it was only because of that frog jumping that I stood still long enough to discover my very own “bit of rubbish.”

Things I learned:

*You can take these things home, put them in an aquarium to observe them, remove the top twigs of its case, give it tiny strips of flower pedals, and watch it rebuild using the blossoms.  They are “underwater architects.”

*The inside of the case is lined with silk.

*The worm is not attached to the case and if you turn the case wrong side up and hold it down, the worm will flip over within it to right itself.

*An artist named Hubert Duprat collects them, keeps them in climate controlled aquariums, removes them from their cases, supplies them with precious metal and stones, and thus creates (using the worms) beautiful little works of art.  Click HERE to see.

*When they are ready to pupate (turn into a fly), it fastens itself to an object in the water and seals itself up inside.  Eventually it emerges as a caddis fly.

* People make fishing lures using the caddis fly as inspiration.

*If they are located in your backyard stream it is an indication that the water is clean.

*They can make their case out of almost anything including sand, stones, or even a hollow stem.

*Someone made this.

For more information you can read the wikipedia article HERE.

In fact, the more I dig around the internet studying these things, the dumber I feel!  Why haven’t I learned about these before?  What fascinating creatures they are!

“Little brook, so simple, so unassuming
–and yet how many things love thee!”
~Edward Carpenter

PS, I didn’t see the bear.   However, I thought I heard one at one point and peed a little in my pants.  Bears, worms, and snakes….oh my!

of muffins and monarchs

DSC_1284 2

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” ~J.Calvin

Sarah Joy had a check up yesterday with her surgeon.  I hate to admit this but I did bribe her to be nice to the poor doctor.  Ever since her first surgery, Sarah has had a very negative reaction to all the nurses and doctors.  Dr. K, her main surgeon, has been so polite, kind, sweet, and loving to Sarah every step of the way and has felt Sarah’s dislike keenly, although she completely understood and did her best to reduce contact with her, keeping her conversations directed toward me and Rich instead.  I bought Dr. K a necklace and had it wrapped up very prettily, with a bow.  I gently explained to Sarah that she was going to bestow this lovely gift to her doctor with a smile and a hug, “OR ELSE YOU ARE GETTING NOTHING FROM THE GIFT SHOP after your appointment!!”  “WHY do I have to give her a hug?” she cried.  “Because it will be good for YOUR HEART to be kind!” I said, wisely, with a prayer that this would work.

Success!  What a joy!  She was more relaxed and talkative to the Doctor than she has ever been.  She made Dr. K so happy with the necklace, but most especially with the smiles and conversation and hug.

Sarah was told that she was healing very well and could now do anything she wanted to do, as long as it was okay with her parents. We were given lollipops and then went skipping down the hall to the gift shop, where Sarah happily chose a 1.99 bracelet as a reward for her good attitude.  The brothers were with us, too.  Caleb chose Jolly Ranchers (making me remember an old xanga friend), and Seth chose a stuffed animal.

*****

When we got home, the only thing Sarah wanted to do with her renewed freedom  was go wild-berry picking with her Mama.  We walked up to the raspberry patch and picked big beautiful jewels of berries.  When we came back home to put on bug spray, she saw that Seth had turned on a movie and decided to take a rest from berry picking because she wanted to watch the movie, too.  (It was “Home”).  I went in my room to relax and when her movie was over she came in, looked into my eyes, and said, “Are you ready for a berry-walk?  Or do you still need to rest?”  I looked at her and thought, “I’m not the one who just had surgery.  If you don’t need any more rest, I don’t either.”

Off we went to pick BLUEBERRIES this time!  The bushes in the woods are small, and low to the ground–nothing like my parent’s property covered in nice tall, fat and mature bushes.  But we found “just enough” berries and the sun was at the golden hour…..making everything glow like magic.  We found blueberries of all shades.

*****

This morning I woke up to my daughter right in front of my face, telling me it was time to wake up and make muffins.  My mind was willing but my body felt leaden.  I tossed and turned for a few minutes and then got out of the covers, not so much to make muffins, but because I was curious about how my monarch caterpillars were…….

I found Sarah waiting for me on the little couch and I kissed her face.  Together we went into the kitchen to make the muffins she naturally knew we just had to use the berries in.

DSC_1291

DSC_1296

She sat on a stool to scoop out batter with an ice cream scoop.

DSC_1300 2

She kept tasting the dough and saying “yummmmmmmm”.

DSC_1311 1

I filled the regular sized muffin tin and soon they were baking in the oven and we called up the boys to have their breakfast.

DSC_1365

DSC_1368

*****

I ate a warm buttered muffin with a cup of coffee, perched on a stool in front of the aquarium which held a dangling caterpillar, two chrysalises, and a caterpillar.

DSC_1344 1

I knew this caterpillar was very close to shedding it’s skin so I determined to wait and get it on video.

DSC_1357

These two attached to a stick that I put in the aquarium.  They were the compliant caterpillars, the other one was a rebel and escaped the whole set-up to attach to a iPhone charging cord.

DSC_1355 1

DSC_1395

When I saw what it had done, I draped the cord over the top of the tank.  (I had blocked half the top with a cutting board.)

I sat for a while watching the dangling caterpillar gently convulse.  I knew it was almost time and called the children over.  We were able to get the whole process on video.

As I sat, I couldn’t help but think about how astonishing God’s creation is.  Why did he make these detailed, intricate creatures, and millions more beside?  He is The Creator–Creators MUST CREATE.  Just think of the things humans make and how we get “in the zone” as we sing, or draw,or sew, or garden.  That urge to create came from Father-God, we are like Him, in a very small way, because He made us in His image.  It is good and we enjoy it all.

So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female.  Genesis 1:27

He brought the most mind-boggling things into existence—plants, humans, animals, all of these things reproduce and continue the cycle of life.  Self-sustaining creation.  A-MAZE-ING.  Overwhelming.  No one is like Him, but we have a touch of the divine within us, allowing us to enjoy life, and all parts of living.

No one is like you, LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Jeremiah 10:6

DSC_1398

“If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation.”  Edith Schaeffer

monarch caterpillar update

IMG_7221

It has started to dangle!!

My friend Amy and I went up to the dam to try to find more caterpillars (there is lots of milkweed growing there) but we didn’t see anything but red milkweed bugs.

Then, this evening I sent the boys outside to play and David found two more!

He was the special person who found the first caterpillar yesterday.

I told him he had the eyes to see them.

IMG_7222

I texted Amy right away.  I told her I had triplets.

IMG_7225

IMG_7228

IMG_7229

They live by the sink.  We all stop to look at them frequently.

we saw an Indigo Bunting today!!!!

DSC_1209

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.
~Wendell Berry

I gathered a little lunch snack for Sarah and she ate every single thing but the lettuce.  And then she wanted more peas so she went outside herself and picked them.  She started a project of opening them up to only get the peas out (these are sugar snaps and we generally eat them whole) and she worked until she had about 1/8 of a cup.  Then she ate them.  Parker the dog ate the cases.

I stayed home from church with her while Rich went with everyone else.  I cleaned the kitchen and living room and vacuumed while she rested and kept herself hydrated.  I’m very pleased with how she is doing today.

DSC_1213

At one point she said, “I’m so sad because I got that beautiful necklace at the hospital and I never got to wear it.  It’s lost.”  And I said, “No it’s not lost, it’s around here someplace.”  “Yes it is!  Lost is when you don’t know where something is so… it’s lost.”  Then I agreed she was right.  Five minutes later she found it.

DSC_1214

As soon as they came home from church Ethan took a nap.

Rest on a Sunday.  It’s only natural.

DSC_1222 1

I went on the porch to read but I didn’t read for very long because it is a very moth and butterfly sort of day.  Quite distracting.  I went in the house to get my camera and Dave walked around with me to see what we could see.

There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me. ~Thomas Jefferson

DSC_1230

The most exciting thing David found was a monarch caterpillar.  We look for them yearly but have not seen any for several years!!

DSC_1242

It was rewarding, in a way, because I never ever weed out milkweed in the hopes that we will once again get caterpillars.  The milkweed this one was on grew right through the middle of my lilac bush by the kitchen window.  Can you see the caterpillar?  David spotted it right away.  We couldn’t believe how fat it was.

DSC_1239 1

We put it, along with plenty of milkweed, in an old empty aquarium.  We will observe it while it forms into a beautiful butterfly….stay tuned!

Naturally, I wanted to go up to the field to try to find more but none of the children would go with me.  I went out to the garage, where my husband was waxing his car, and asked him to go along.  He agreed to go as soon as he was done with the left fender.

I waited for him by the stream.

We picked some wild blueberries (1/4 of a cup) and I put them in my pocket.

We talked.

We were attacked by mosquitoes.

We saw birds and butterflies.

DSC_1243 1

DSC_1245

MOST EXCITINGLY!!!!!!!!!!!

An Indigo Bunting!

DSC_1249

what a heavenly blue

DSC_1250

It’s mate was there, too, and they were making all kinds of noise to threaten us so we believe their nest was nearby.

DSC_1251

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. ~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther

 

what is that sound? it’s poo

 

Good afternoon, friends.  This is a tale of birds and caterpillars.

It just so happens, that in the beginning of this week, I was walking with Caleb, Seth, and Sarah and we discovered a *new to us* bird.  It was deeper into the woods, near the adventure trail, on the ground drinking from a small stream.  As we came upon it, it flew up into a tree close enough for us to see it in detail.  Later that day, I found that it was a yellow-billed cuckoo.  I was not able to get a good photo of it, so if you would like to see it you can find a picture and an article here.  They are known as “Tent Caterpillar birds” because they eat the hairy caterpillars that are so numerous in the woods these days.

(hairy caterpillars)

I first noticed this year’s caterpillar outbreak at Little League.  They were crawling in large numbers up the side of the dugouts.  Seth said “they were everywhere”.  Sarah was morbidly interested but would not touch them.  I wasn’t concerned in the least…but I am now.

Why? you ask?  Well, the very day that the children and I went a’walking, I was puzzled by the sound of raindrops falling from the leaves of the trees.  I could not understand how the leaves had gotten so drippy-wet, and also: I wasn’t getting any rain drops on MYSELF.

Today I was walking down the road with my cup of coffee when I heard *the sound* coming from the woods again.  I went into the house to put down my cup and get the girls.  We needed to solve a mystery.

And what we noticed was, in almost every place we looked, we could see at least one growing and munching caterpillar.  The woods were alive with the sound of pitter pat droppings, not of rain, but of caterpillar POO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tiny, hard bits of poo.  Everywhere.  Dropping on the floor of the forest.  They were most easy to see, caught in spider webs.

I went online to research, just in case I was crazy.  Maybe the little hard brown bits were seeds?  Maybe?  But I quickly found this article.

“The caterpillars are harmless – but they do like to eat. You can see the buffet of half-eaten leaves on the ground, constantly falling from trees.

“You can actually hear the activity,” Grigoriou said. ‘It sounds like rain.'”

~Matt Scott for Fox 61 news

The activity that sounds like rain happens to be a vast amount of waste product falling from the very hungry caterpillars which cannot stop eating and therefore cannot stop pooping.

DSC_0371

Caterpillars of various sizes are all over the place in the woods.

DSC_0375

crawling and creeping and haunting

DSC_0378

up and down tree trunks

DSC_0388

big trees and little trees

DSC_0387

they’re everywhere (insert spooky voice here)

DSC_0394

eating and eating and eating and eating

and….dropping and dropping and dropping and dropping

DSC_0380

Is it nature’s fertilizer?

DSC_0382

millions of these little poop balls are littering the ground

DSC_0392

along with leaf bits that have been chewed away and lost off of the trees

NEVER IN ALL MY DAYS!!!!!

I’m rather amazed by it all…..and I hope you are, too.

*****

Yesterday we had a pair of ducks on our pond all day long, they were quite a delight to see.  The girls and I sat together and watched them.

DSC_0299

We had conversations about monogamy, orange feet, how ducks communicate, nests and eggs, and what they must think of us, and do they like it here, will they live here and raise a family, and so on.

DSC_0332

DSC_0333

Later on that evening, I was watering and weeding the garden when I heard the unmistakeable sound of an Osprey.

Sure enough, I looked up just in time to see one alight in the dead tree with a fresh fish in it’s strong legs.  (it was wearing white pants)  I ran into the house to get my camera crying out, “Our pond is a bird-feeder!!” and the children followed me out of doors.  Rich mourned the loss of another one of HIS fish to wildlife and not a fishing hook.

DSC_0340

Look at the legs on this bird!  It’s wings look like a cape.

DSC_0343

The (poor) fish was flying.